Category Archives: Theology

hell raiser: francis chan and “erasing hell”

A few months ago I watched this video and I’ve been meaning to write something on it, though I’ve had it on the backburner for a while.

The video is a preview/advert for Francis Chan’s now-released book, Erasing Hell. I should note I have not read the book, nor do I plan to in the near future (PhD studies… they ruin everything). For this reason I do not know in any definite way what Chan’s view is on the subject of Hell, nor is it directly relevant to this post. I should also note that I am not interested in discussing the content of the book, but only of the video.

The video begins with an air of humility, including the use of biblical metaphors to demonstrate how much lower we are than God, just as clay to the potter. So far so good. Read the rest of this entry

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let’s talk about sex, baby! (…and consumerism)

Many Christians are very critical of contemporary sexual culture, and rightly so. But what is the worldview behind this culture of so-called sexual liberation? Perhaps, by directly attacking modern ideas about sexuality, Christians are like people trying to scoop water out of their hallway with a teaspoon when it would be much smarter to turn off the flooding bathtub.

In their book Colossians Remixed, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat make a very brief and powerful statement about the connection of contemporary sexual culture to our culture of consumption. Speaking about Colossians 3:5 they say:

Sexual sin, greed and idolatry – what is the relation among these? Why end a list of sexual sins with an economic sin? Because sexual sin is fundamentally a matter of covetousness, an insatiable, self-gratifying greed that has the control and consumption of the other person as its ultimate desire. Sexual sin is not sin because it is sexual but because it is invariably covetous. it replaces the pleasure and sexual enjoyment of two people in a loving relationship with a self-centred gratification of sexual longings that can never be fulfilled apart from commitment. Read the rest of this entry

revelation & rethinking the millennium

One understanding of Revelation, including the Millennium (20:1-6). Simple, wouldn't you agree?

Surely one of the most controversial and debated sections of Scripture is that of the Millennium in Revelation 20:1-6. Different perspectives in the Church today argue adamantly for their understanding of the Millennium despite the relative unimportance and narrative space given to it by Revelation’s author. Nonetheless this argument is in many ways representative of the larger debate regarding eschatology and how to interpret the Bible, thus it is crucial in terms of the practice of the Church in the twenty-first century world.

So, ignoring some of the more speculative elements of the Millennium, my question is what do we make of this thousand year period described in the last biblical book? Is it in fact a literal time period, or a symbolic one? Read the rest of this entry

brief thoughts on suffering and theology

That the central event in the Christian faith is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus should lead to, among many things, reflection on how we approach theological thought about contemporary issues.

Indeed, God came to us in the form of a human named Jesus, and thus he suffered as a human. He probably grazed his knees as a child. He probably gashed his hand as a carpenter. He most definitely mourned the death of loved ones.

And of course he suffered when he was crucified.

It seems that the clearest revelation of God we have explicitly models him suffering with others who are both socially and ontologically inferior. Should this model serve as an example to us of how possibly to approach theology? Read the rest of this entry

oh the idolatry: humanity, injustice & climate change

Even if the deniers were right – which is impossible to credit on rational grounds – the core argument of [A Moral Climate] is that the fossil-fuelled global economy is dangerous to planet earth and to human life, not just because it is warming the climate of the earth but because it is deeply destructive of the diversity and welfare of the ecosystems and human communities from which surplus value is extracted and traded across highways, oceans and jetstreams. The rituals encouraged by the recognition of global warming – turning off lights, turning down the heater, cycling or walking instead of driving, holidaying nearer to home, buying local food, shopping less and conversing more, addressing the causes of fuel poverty locally and internationally –  are good because they are intrinsically right, not just because they have the consequence of reducing carbon emissions. Such actions correct modern thoughtlessness. They sustain the moral claim that it is wrong to live in a civilisation that depends upon the systematic enslavement of peoples and ecosystems to the high resource requirements of a corporately-governed consumer economy. …

… Actions which will have the effect of mitigating climate change are also actions which reaffirm the embodied relationship between inner desire and the outer world of what Christians call Creation. For this reason such actions are intrinsically good, and will promote flourishing even if, as a minority of dissenters suggest, greenhouse gases are not the primary driver of global warming.

– Michael Northcott, A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, 273-274. Read the rest of this entry

Q&R: jesus and violence in the book of revelation

A life.remixed reader writes (in the comments section of my post Who Would Jesus Whip?):

Hey Matt,
Thanks for this post. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate your perspective on a number of issues, particularly this one, as your view is quite different to mine.
My question (not a trick one I should point out) is how you reconcile the image of the non-violent Jesus of the Gospels with the recurrently violent image of Him portrayed in Revelation?
Here is an example of what I’m talking about…

Revelation 19:11
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” (NIV)

My point is that if Jesus’ character is one of non-violent resistance, must that not consistently be His character throughout the ages? Are you arguing that He is specifically calling us to model His non-violent attitude demonstrated in the Gospels but ignore (or at least disregard for the moment) His violent responses in other parts of the Bible (in a Deuteronomy 32:35 sense)?

This certainly gets back to your point about what constitutes violence. I definitely read a correlation between Jesus’ violence and His perfect justice…an aspect that we certainly lack.
This may be a subject for another post, but would love to know your thoughts. Read the rest of this entry

jesus: fanatic or bourgeois?

Recently I had the pleasure of being referred to as a fanatic. In a negative way. By another Christian.

From a pulpit.

Luckily I (ironically) took it as a complement.

The comment was made by a young pastor in reference to my quasi-activism (I can’t really refer to myself as an activist, it would do a great disservice to those who really do go out life and limb in their activism for causes they believe in.)

This experience got me thinking about the Jesus-es that people follow. For example, which Jesus does this young pastor follow? And indeed, which Jesus do I follow? Read the rest of this entry

ruptured rapture: christian gnosticism alive and well

If you are reading this you have awoken on the 22nd of May to find you have not floated into the sky, or been “left behind”…

The recent flurry of attention given to belief in the rapture, owing primarily to American fundamentalist Harold Camper’s predictions of its occurrence, offers some interesting points of reflection for Christians today. (It didn’t happen, in case you were worried you had been left behind.)

I don’t just mean this in terms of the apparent foolishness of attempting to predict the “rapture”, or more broadly “the end of the world”, in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36:*

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

Nor do I mean this in terms of reflecting on the fact that the concept of the rapture is based on a misinterpretation of one verse in 1 Thessalonians 4, or that no Christian before the 18th century had even heard of it!

Instead I think that Christians would do well to reflect on the unbiblical thinking that forms the foundation of ideas like the rapture. Read the rest of this entry

found the sting: some reflections about death & mourning

The death of a good man, who leaves behind four children, at what seems too early a time, is never going to be an easily digested reality. So when I was asked to express some thoughts on the Christian perspective(s) about death on my blog I only barely agreed

What do I say, particularly in the short space of a blog post? Indeed, at my age, in my wealth demographic, I have yet to personally experience death to a harrowing degree. I don’t really have any concrete answers about death, and theologising does not seem to be particularly helpful at this point.

This kind of theologising, though, is precisely the reason I was asked to put some thoughts down. Some unhelpful comments made to a good friend of mine about the death of this now-deceased brother led him to ask me the question:

Why do Christians have such strange views about death? Read the rest of this entry

hating your enemy: the bin laden episode

In the hours following the announcement of the killing of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, it takes but a few mouse clicks to peruse countless comments on Twitter and Facebook by Christians who unashamedly celebrate his death.

I will do you a favour and not publish some of the awful comments I have read, some from well-known Christian pastors and authors.

The pictures are enough. In the news we have seen images of celebrations pouring into American streets, assumedly including Christians. These are a sad reflection of how far many Christians have moved from the teachings of Jesus, having replaced them with nationalistic zeal.

This is in now way intended to defend the past action of bin Laden. It is however to say that Christians need to rethink what Jesus might have to say about our enemies. Read the rest of this entry

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